PARIS – Karim Benzema has been awarded France Football’s national player of the year, capping off a remarkable comeback with Les Bleus.
After being sacked by France coach Didier Deschamps in late 2015 following a scandal involving a sex film featuring a former colleague, the Real Madrid attacker was returned by him.
“It had been over six years since I had previously played, so I had to re-acquaint myself with the game, watch and adapt. It wasn’t difficult, and it didn’t take long “In an interview published on Saturday, Benzema, who turned 34 in December, told France Football.
Despite getting a one-year suspended sentence in November, Benzema beat out two former winners, Kylian Mbappe and N’Golo Kante, in the France Football poll released on Friday.
Benzema is appealing his conviction for complicity in a bid to blackmail former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.
Benzema has scored nine goals for France since his return.
Filling the roll of a traditional central striker, he has meshed well with the other two attackers, Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.
“I find myself in the best circumstances” in the French team, he told France Football, saying that the partnership with Mbappe and Griezmann is “working well”, and has grown even “better” than when he first returned last summer.
“Now, when one drops, the other goes long, and vice versa. It’s better,” he said.
Benzema scored four goals at the European Championship, including a pair as the world champions were surprisingly eliminated in the round of 16 by Switzerland, who fought back with two late goals to draw 3-3 and then won on penalties.
He finished the calendar year with a bang, scoring five goals in four internationals as France rebounded by winning the Nations League and completing a successful World Cup qualifying campaign.
“I just have to stay at this level,” he said. “Now we have to win collective trophies,” he said.